The 2013 season can go one of two ways for the New York Islanders. It can play out like the hook of a Four Tops tune or a scene from a Rick Moranis flick.
Many hockey pundits see 2013 as “The Same Old Song,” for the Isles. They are looked at as a young and energetic assembly of talent, who will fail once again to put it all together. More optimistic experts however think 2013 could turn out to be something along the lines of “Honey, I Blew Up the Kids,” where the Isles’ up-and-coming stars, John Tavares, Michael Grabner and Matt Moulson guide the team to their first playoff birth since 2007.
Last Year: The Islanders were hampered by a plethora of things, with a lack of offensive depth hurting them just as much as the inconsistent defense and mounting injuries. After the first line of Tavares, Moulson and recently-departed PA Parenteau, the team only had two 20-goal scorers in Grabner and Kyle Okposo, who ironically scored a hefty chunk of their goals after the team was mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. They got gritty performances from NHL hits leader Matt Martin and two-way wizard Frans Nielsen, but were hurt when depth players Josh Bailey, Marty Reasoner, Nino Niederreiter and Brian Rolston combined for just 19 goals. Add in a young defense and inconsistent goaltending away from the steady Evgeni Nabokov and the Isles were doomed early on.
Question Marks: For a half decade, the Islanders biggest problem has been goaltending. Even after Nabokov’s stellar season in 2012, the question remains whether the hardened veteran can repeat his impressive showing. Another question is will he still be the starter? Rick DiPietro is still on the books for $4.5 million dollars this year, in spite of playing in just 47 games over the last four seasons. With talented youngsters in Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson waiting in the wings, will the Islanders finally find a way to rid themselves of the DiPietro problem?
Wishful Thinking: That recently acquired Brad Boyes is going to replace PA Parenteau. Although Islanders General manager Garth Snow has been hailed as a genius for his experiments with Moulson and Parenteau over the years, Boyes is a different animal. A 40-goal scorer in a past lifetime, Boyes will benefit from playing with Tavares and Moulson, but don’t expect him to find the Ponce de Leon fountain of youth. Expect 10-15 goals from Boyes this season, nothing more.
Prediction: If the Islanders young defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic can help veterans Mark Streit and Matt Carkner keep pucks from whoever is in net, the Islanders offense has enough firepower to keep them in every game they play this season. While this team is bound to be a winner and shock the NHL to its core, 2013 doesn’t appear to be the season. Expect them to hang around the final two playoffs spots for a good chunk of the season until injuries begin to take their toll.
The Isles' move to Brooklyn's Barclays Center for the 2015-16 season garnered major headlines this fall and sadly for Islander fans, it appears the team's chances at being a serious playoff contender are a few years off as well.